The Companion

by Anita Sullivan
Robot hand


'The Companion' is one of three Radio 4 Readings in the 'Why Robot' series. These readings are a celebration and exploration of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The story is about a Companion robot, bought as a home-help to a elderly woman. But the woman is hostile to the Companion's presence, and the robot has a purpose that goes beyond the three laws.

A Sweet Talk production broadcast in May 2010. Read by Sheila Steafel and directed by Jeremy Osbourne.

Duration: 14 minutes.


Katrin bought the robot for her mother Eunice’s 70th birthday. She chose a ‘Companion-series’ humanoid from LifeBots-dot-com. It was programmed to recognise the warning symptoms of stroke and cardiac arrest. It was uplinked to the NHS Hub, could dispense medicines to prescription and was strong enough to lift a 20 stone man. It could also play Bridge.

Research has shown that older customers prefer their robots to look like robots. So unlike the LifeBots’ Leisure or Pleasure series, Companion models have exterior joints and are mechanised by hydraulics. They sigh gently as they move. Their cranium is smooth and below the suggestion of forehead and nose, a speaker-vent serves for a mouth. Their torso has no musculature, no belly-button and absolutely no nipples. The sunglass-eyes blink (at a slightly slower rate than a human blink) and the on/off-switch glows comfortingly in the dark.

Robots aren’t cheap. Katrin bought one second-hand and reconditioned from a reputable dealer.

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